He’s the unassuming songwriter with an effortless baritone, a ukulele and a smile made to melt even the iciest heart. Inspired by his Polynesian heritage Bobby Alu follows his strong family musical lineage and writes songs of love life and travel….
What are your three go to albums when it comes to seeking solace in the work of others?
Today my choices are…
Bob Marley – Catch a Fire. it was the first album i ever bought, i feel like it turned me to into a musician.
Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again
Ben Harper – Fight for Your mind
What song do you wish you’d written?
Bill Withers – Ain’t no sunshine
Was music the place you always thought you’d end up…what inspired you to take a more typically unconventional path…..
It took a while to find it. It took a while for me to own it. Looking back now it was so obvious, i guess in some areas i’m a slow learner. In my teens I had a promising sporting career and I just wanted to please people around me. It actually pointed me away from the one thing that gave me so much joy and that was making music. Luckily, a little stubbornness and a yearning to be different gave me the drive to give a career in music a good go.
What do you value about your every day life that exists because of the choices you have made…
I value the community of friends I have made especially the weird and wacky individuals that come in and out of my life. I find it inspiring. My dad used to say “you fly with the crows, you get shot with the crows…” ha ha pretty full on. I always found that saying too judgemental. I know he just wanted a good life for his son. The thing is.. i love flying with the crows, they’re a lot more fun.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
I could make a ‘publicity friendly’ answer like “i’ve got no regrets” but who am I kidding… I’d make sure my teenager self would have more guts to stand up for himself and stop pleasing others. I never did music at school. I know i wanted too, but I just didn’t do it.
How does your Polynesian heritage inform your music making?
It is mighty. There was a time, i was not proud of it, but now its very much my identity. I’m grateful to have ties to such an ancient and beautiful culture. Polynesian music is the soundtrack of my childhood, I just can’t shake it. I learn’t to sing and play instruments jamming with my drunk uncles at family gatherings. Its a familiar nostalgic sound, that is very much me.
Where do your songs come from? What is your process for making something out of nothing….(song making always seems like some sort of weird magic to me!)
For me it first started with chord structure. On a uke or guitar I’d starting strumming some chords together. Then I would just hum what i thought was cool melody on the top and i’d add words that fit. I remember being about 15 when i started trying it. I thought it was so easy and would pump out a bad song every night. Over time, that method has changed, especially now. I write when I am moved or affected, or simply when the beat is so good you nod your head.
What have you been working on most recently?
I’m in deep creative land right now. Working on some new music. Its been 3 years since my last studio album. I’ve been lucky to do so much touring and travel around the world during this time. I’ve been hugely inspired and moved. I’ve played on average about 200 shows a year, ranging from house concerts of 10 people to raging festivals of 20 000 and now for the first time in 3 years, i’m home, with time to write and record.
What should we expect for your show at the Mullum Music Festival?
I’m going to try out some of these new songs with my band ‘The Palm Royale’ on party night (Friday). I’m also doing a duo percussion show Sunday with my friend and mentor Greg Sheehan. We have been jamming lately. Again, i’m so grateful to have these amazing kooky people in my life and Greg is one of them. A musical genius, yet so humble and sharing. Drumming is a big part of my life, I’ve always played drums, I find it so easy and it brings me peace. Greg has been generous in sharing his knowledge with me, and we’ve put together a pretty fun show for Mullumfest. See you soon.
Mullum Music Festival
17 – 20 November
program and ticket info go to mullummusicfestival.com